Bicycle shops struggle to keep up with demand 2

Dave Carson works on a bicycle at The Bicycle Shop on Clark Street in Greenville.

GREENVILLE — Greenville is left with one bicycle shop after the Bicycle Post announced it would be permanently closing on July 10.

The Bicycle Post location on Cotanche Street opened in 1981 with its main customers being East Carolina University students, said Greg Smith, son of Bicycle Post owner Gerry Smith.

The location began to see a decline in sales in the 1990s as ECU freshmen were allowed to bring cars to campus and the ECU bus system provided better transportation, Smith said. The shop, which ultimately closed, was also prone to flooding during heavy rain and downtown construction on the Town Creek Culvert affected the business.

When the Bicycle Post opened its location on Arlington in 1990, it had more business than the Cotanche location, Smith said.

“As soon as we opened the store on Arlington it started doing more business than Cotanche Street just because it was probably easier to get to and it was more visible near the mall and all that,” Smith said.

In the past five years the bicycle business has changed a lot, Smith said. Many customers would bring bicycles into the shop in a box to have the shop assemble the bike. Other customers would buy parts online and have the shop install them.

Earlier in the year distributors ran out of bikes so the shop was only able to do repairs. Distributors also ran out of common parts for repairs such as tubes, tires and chains, he said.

“We were so swamped with repairs we had 50 or 60 repairs in at one time,” Smith said. “Then it got to the point that the suppliers ran out of the some of the common parts like tires and tubes that fit bikes that were coming in, so we were getting to the point right there at the end we couldn’t get parts for repairs that we needed.”

Smith said he began to help his mother with the business after she got sick in 2019. Smith’s mother, who died in January, was bedridden all of 2019 but still tried to manage the shop from home.

“Well, until she got sick she was out of the store all 2019 but she was in her office everyday, six days a week where she was available for customers to talk to, she did all of the ordering, made the decisions on what to order, planning out everything,” Smith said.

The Bicycle Post Trails have always been maintained by volunteers. Smith said he is going to try to make sure there is enough money to keep the trails open.

Greenville Bicycle Company owner and operator Chris Davenport said the shop at 802 Clark Street is now the last in Greenville. He said he worked at the Bicycle Post for 14 years before deciding to open his own shop in December.

Even before COVID-19 hit, Davenport said his business was busy. Afterward, business began to catapult as people came in for repairs of old bikes that hadn’t been ridden in a while. The shop provides full service on standard bicycles, he said.

“We see it all, everything from changing a tube in a Walmart bike to putting very expensive electronic shifting on an expensive road bike and we aren’t selective, we want to service everybody,” Davenport said.

For about two months the shop had bikes in boxes that the shop was unable to build fast enough. He said he was behind on new bike builds for two months. As a new business he was scared when he ordered that many bikes. However, all the bikes he ordered have sold.

Davenport said he has not been able to order new bikes because of a nationwide bike shortage. He’s heard talk new bikes may not be available until the end of the year.

Davenport said he’s run out of the most popular type of bike tire tube and doesn’t know when he will be able to get more.

“The fact that I can’t get people bicycles right now is just horrible, it’s not exclusive to me or Greenville or Eastern North Carolina, it’s nationwide so everyone’s experiencing it,” he said. “I have this really long running list of people I need to call when availability of bikes comes back in.”